The Yukon might get hit with a double-whammy flu season this fall.
The H1N1 flu virus, also known as swine flu, is forcing health officials to beef up flu preparedness in the territory’s schools and hospitals.
While the seasonal flu is expected to run its course over the next three months, no one knows when a wave of H1N1 might hit the Yukon.
H1N1 could overlap and effectively replace the regular flu season, which happened in Australia this year, the Yukon’s medical officer of health Brendan Hanley told a news conference Tuesday.
But H1N1 could also spread after the flu season, potentially forcing people to take two and even three doses of vaccine over the fall.
Seniors, children and people with serious health conditions are urged to get the pneumococcal vaccine to fight seasonal flu, said Health and Social Services Minister Glenn Hart.
The Yukon has enough vaccine for about 9,000 cases of regular flu. Officials expect only about 6,100 cases a season.
But the vaccine designed to handle H1N1, a new mutation of the flu virus only identified in April this year, won’t be ready until late October or November, said Hanley.
The vaccine is currently undergoing clinical trials by federal health officials.
These trials will determine the vaccine’s effectiveness and whether it will need to be taken in one or two doses.
“We’re preparing for a two-dose schedule of the H1N1 vaccine,” said Hanley.
There’s no risk with taking both vaccines, said Hanley.
Schools will report high absenteeism to health officials, said Education Minister Patrick Rouble.
The Education Department is looking for anyone who can enrol as a substitute teacher if school staff gets thin, said Rouble.
The Yukon is also going to minimize school closures because it’s impractical, said Hart.
“As much as other jurisdictions are, we are not going to close the schools,” said Hart. “We’re going to try to keep the things open.”
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